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Environment and Water Resource Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has done what all Singaporeans have come to expect – and detest. Whenever something goes wrong, he points the finger at someone else. In the latest case, it is Mother Nature.
The Minister seemed reasonable enough when he started his statement by saying that the jury was still out on whether changes in the weather was the cause of the intense downpours.
He said: “Has the weather in Singapore changed? This is not an easy question to answer. The meteorologists tell me that they need more long term data before they can give us a conclusive answer.”
Dr Balakrishna was responding to the weekend flooding of several areas all over Singapore including Orchard Road again.
So if it is not the weather, is the Government at fault? Absolutely not, said the Minister: “The PUB has done a great job over the past five decades.” This comes amidst growing anger at the PUB by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA) whose members have had to suffer repeated damage to their shops.
Then, a few sentences later, he writes: “Nevertheless, if the weather patterns have changed, then PUB needs to review all the assumptions and planning norms that underlie our current drainage plans.”
Notice the shift from not knowing if weather patterns have changed to his giving his Ministry the all-clear and then prodding the blame back on the weather.
By the time he ends his statement, he is convinced that it is the weather that is to be blamed: “We are dealing with Nature, and Man needs to be humble when addressing the challenges that Nature poses.”
In his statement to the press he lays it on thick about the weather: “You’re dealing with nature and you’re dealing with the weather, you have to be prepared that there is a limit to human engineering and what we can deliver. But having said that, let us make sure we have done the best we can and within those limits and then cope with whatever else that nature throws at us.”
In another report he concludes, forgetting his own admission that scientists cannot be sure if the weather has changed, that it “can be safely presumed that the weather patterns in Singapore have changed.”
No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘buts’. It is Nature that has caused these floods.
This contradicts the PUB’s initial diagnosis which blamed cluttered drains for the inundation.
In the best of traditions, Dr Balakrishnan has again blamed the weekend’s flooding on something else other than the Government. His predecessor Mr Yaacob Ibrahim said last year that the floods were caused by Typhoon Conson in Sumatra and aggravated by La Nina conditions.
It is never the PAP’s fault. Even when Mas Selamat escaped Mr Lee Kuan Yew blamed it on the complacency of Singaporeans.
Could it not have been the construction of the Marina Barrage that is the cause of the floods? Or could the floods have been due to the over-construction on the island (including the digging of MRT lines)? Or the extensive reclamation of our coastal areas, possibilities which the SDP raised last year when the deluge was at its peak? (See here)
The question is that, in the interim of the one year, did the Ministry commission a comprehensive review of the entire system to definitively rule out PAP-made causes for the floods?
Instead of working to get to the root of the problem, however, you have the ministers saying that it is not possible to keep Singapore flood free. How is it that we are paying our ministers these stellar salaries only for them to tell us that making floods in Singapore a thing of the past is impossible?
In trying to resolve this question, the PAP seems too eager to place the blame somewehere else. It is adamant in sticking to its tactic of admitting nothing and denying everything. How quickly it forgets the lessons from the general elections.
The ministers may have changed but everything remains as is.